published Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

South Pittsburg rehires 2 workers for public works

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — The South Pittsburg City Commission has decided to rehire two part-time workers whose original employment caused some hard feelings among former city leaders.

The board voted to keep the two public works department workers until June 30, which is the end of the fiscal year. They were hired initially in November to work a 12-week schedule at a total cost of about $4,000.

Officials estimate it will cost the same amount to keep the workers employed through June.

Former City Administrator Bently Thomas questioned the hiring privately last fall because there was no money in the budget to pay for them.

Former Commissioner Charles Reynolds publicly chastised Thomas for objecting and said he didn't think Thomas was doing a good job as city administrator.

"You can't sit in an office off and on most of the day and say what [city workers] are doing outside and say what they need and what they don't need," Reynolds said in October.

Reynolds did not seek re-election in November, and Thomas resigned in January to take a position in Bradley County.

Commissioner Jimmy Wigfall, who took over Reynolds' seat, said he has been monitoring the efforts of the public works department employees.

"This bunch does a lot of stuff," he said. "They're undermanned bad. They're trying to take care of this whole city, and there are not enough of them."

The six-man crew of full-time workers does road repairs, trash pickup and tree trimming, among other duties, Wigfall said.

"They're going as hard as they can," he said. "With all the stuff that's going on right now, it just doesn't look like they're doing much, but they're doing all they can."

Even though there's no money in the budget to pay the part-timers, Mayor Jane Dawkins said, some funds are available in a line item used to pay for overtime.

There is enough money there to pay for the workers, officials said, but if something "unforeseeable" happens there could be a problem with keeping them until the end of June.

"We can adjust as we go," Wigfall said. "If we run out of money, we lay them off. If we put those guys [to work] right now, we can possibly get a handle on this city."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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